Recently in Defending the Faith Category

Father Rain


Since moving to Colorado Springs, I have been blessed in an unexpected way – I have been able to attend several Masses celebrated by priests from Africa. For the first couple of years I was here, Fr. Sylvain from the Congo was attached to this diocese. On Sunday, Fr. Crispin Okoth, from Kenya, by way of Rome, was visiting our parish.

In his native language (to be honest I’m not sure what it is) okoth means “rain.” Fr. Crispin introduced himself at the beginning of the homily and informed us of this and that he would be pleased if we called him Fr. “Rain.” Fr. Crispin is a big man, a joyful priest, full of the Holy Spirit, whose holiness is almost palpable. He told us that he was so happy to be with us he felt like dancing, he said that in Kenya, masses lasted two or three hours, with dancing, but he promised us that he would not dance on the altar. He said that when he first arrived in Rome a few years ago “they” were horrified at his dancing, and they told him “thou shalt not dance on the altar.” What an awful commandment.

Mass is an entirely different experience when a priest from Africa presides, you feel like dancing yourself, you enter into the Mass in a way I find it hard to describe. As I said, Fr. Rain’s joy was almost tangible; by the time we were ready to recite the “Our Father” I was nearly in tears, both for joy and sorrow for my previous hardness of heart.

Coming from a Protestant background, one of the most notable differences in the worship experience at Mass is the lack of personal involvement on the part of those in the pews. I often feel that, were it not for the responses expected of “the people” on many Sundays there would be no signs of life in the church whatsoever. I sometimes wonder if most of the folks present are even aware of what is going on, or if they are not just going through the motions. This feeling is reinforced when I see the number of folks making a bee line for the door immediately upon receiving communion. Its not that I expect every Mass to be a deeply moving experience, that wasn’t true even of many Presbyterian worship services – I neither want nor expect that. But surely the Mass should be a joyful experience, surely on at least a few Sundays people should be willing and able to express their joy, maybe even dance, at the altar. Surely not everyone has heard the commandment, “thou shalt not dance.”

I wonder if this lack of personal involvement is not part of the reason for many of the problems in the Church today. The problems, to quote a football coach referring to his star running back, “are many and they are great.” It’s not just the sex abuse scandal, although that is part of it, but it is a crisis of leadership on the part of the bishops, it is a crisis of catechesis, and it is a crisis of evangelization.

Russell Shaw has an article in the most recent issue of Crisis magazine, “An Open Letter to America’s Bishop’s” that I hope you will have the opportunity to read. He states the problem facing the Church in the following terms: “The problem is best described, I think, as an acute and far-reaching spiritual crisis bordering on spiritual collapse. In the United States, it’s closely linked to cultural assimilation.” I think he’s right. The fact that a man like John Kerry can publicly proclaim himself a faithful Catholic, while at the same time taking positions absolutely contrary to the centuries old teaching of the Church on the value and sanctity of life, in a way presents a greater challenge to the bishops today that the sex abuse crisis does. If the bishops do nothing, if they assume that “this too shall pass”, they will be demonstrating that, in fact, the teaching of the Church is meaningless. Unless those Catholic politicians who promote the culture of death are strongly censured by the Church, unless they are, in fact, excommunicated, the message that will go out to society today is that the culture is stronger than the Church. The message will be that anyone, no matter what their belief and no matter what their agenda, is welcome, not only to attend Mass but to share in Communion. If John Kerry and those like him are allowed to go on like this, why shouldn’t my Protestant friends and relatives also be allowed to partake in Communion? What’s the difference?

If the bishops continue on a “hear no evil, speak no evil” path it will be no wonder if the faithful lose whatever love for the Eucharist they have remaining. They will see by the example of our pastors that the sacrifice of the altar is a meaningless ritual unworthy of being defended. Not only will there be no joy at Mass, there’ll be no one at Mass.

NOTE: As I have stated before, I do not advocate excommunication as a punishment or as some sort of revenge, but as a wake up call. The objective, after all is to make clear to the person in mortal sin the danger of his position and to call him or her to repentance. I also advocate it as a message to all the faithful that the Church is serious when she states that the Eucharist is “the source and summit” of our lives in the Church. Finally, this is not a political position; I would apply the same treatment to Catholics who are Democrats, Republicans, Greens or whatever else is out there, as long as they actively promote positions that are anathema to Church teaching.

Cuba's Reaction


This fine word from the Cuban government, as reported on Fox News website

HAVANA — Cuba harshly criticized former President Ronald Reagan (search) and his policies on Monday, saying he should "never have been born."

In the first reaction to Reagan's death from the communist government, Radio Reloj (search) said:

"As forgetful and irresponsible as he was, he forgot to take his worst works to the grave," the government radio station said.

"He, who never should have been born, has died," the radio said.

The statement did not mention Cuba's relationship with the United States under Reagan, a staunch foe of communism.

It also did not mention Reagan's decision to order U.S. forces to invade the tiny Caribbean country of Grenada on Oct. 25, 1983, because Washington feared the island had grown too close to Cuba.

Since the early 1960s, Cuba and the United States have been without diplomatic relations, and Cuba has been under a U.S. trade embargo. But relations between the two countries were especially tense when Reagan was in office from 1981-1989.

Radio Reloj lambasted Reagan's military policies, especially the "Star Wars" anti-missile program (search). The initiative, launched when the Soviet Union still existed, rejected a long-standing doctrine built on the idea that neither superpower would start a nuclear war out of fear of annihilation by the other.

The radio also criticized Reagan's policies in Central America, where Washington backed a counterrevolutionary rebel army that fought against the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The United States also supported a conservative government that battled Marxist guerrillas during El Salvador's civil war.

"His apologists characterize him as the victor of the Cold War (search)," the radio said. "Those in the know knew that the reality was not so, but rather (he was) the destroyer of policies of detente in the overall quest for peace."

It seems this is the kind of regime we must oppose wherever we encounter it.

Another Davinci Book


After pre-ordering Carl Olsen's book, The Da Vinci Hoax, (it will be released in July) I noted that our own Amy Welborn also has a Da Vinci book out, De-Coding Davinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of the Da Vinci Code, please consider ordering this book as well. This subject deserves serious study and attention.

New Da Vinci Code Book

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I have just seen an advertisment from Ignatius (in World Magazine) for a new book co-authored by Carl Olsen and Sandra Miesel, The Da Vinci Hoax. I am about to order this book and I encourage you, no I beg you, all to buy it too.

When it was first published, I did not take The Da Vinci Code too seriously, I thought most Christians would ignore it and, like me, realize it was nonsense and not pay any attention to it. I was wrong. I have heard people who are otherwise devout Catholics praise this book, saying what a great book it was and acting as if they really believed most of the stuff in it.

The Da Vinci Code poses a very real threat of leading people away from the Truth of the faith, it is incumbent on all of us to learn as much as we can in order to be able to refute its lies.

Karl Keating Makes the Point


Please see Karl Keatings latest E Letter for a clear, concise explanation of Bishop Sheridan's Pastoral Letter and what it means.

Bishop Sheridan, quite simply, has said nothing new and nothing that is not in accordance with the teaching of the Church. I wonder why so many wish to call themselves Catholic and yet do not wish to be Catholic?

Please pray for Bishop Sheridan, and all bishops who wish to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and the Magisterium of the Church.

Through a Glass, Darkly


World magazine reports that the State of New York has rewritten its building codes. Henceforth, all new residential structures must have electricity, running water, and windows that measure at least 5.7' square. Plans for new residential structures must be submitted for state approval, the approval of city or county planning authorities is not sufficient to allow anyone to build a new house.

You may be wondering why I think this new law worthy of attention on a Catholic blog. Does this have theological or religious implications for the Christian population of this country? It turns out that it does.

You see in Chautauqua, N.Y., there is a sizable population of Old Order Amish. Old Order Amish (OOA) are hard core Amish, no modern new fangled inventions for them. Houses are built out of wood, using hand tools. They don't use electricity, although running water is allowed, so long as it is through a gravity-fed system and supplies cold water only.(I told you they were hard-core.) They don't use zippers; they use hooks and eyes to fasten their clothes. Electricity, telephones, etc are also foreign to the OOA, they use kerosene lamps for light. Even the use of other kinds of oil is not permitted. Oh, and windows in their houses are 5.0' square, no more no less. Any deviation from these standards is considered by the Amish to be a matter of religious principle. The World article quotes the Amish Bishop for the Chautauqua area, Mose Byler, "If you break a tradition, where's the tradition. You aren't a faithful member."

It turns out the state authorities are willing to compromise on the electricity and plumbing, not on window size. You see, the state has recognized that, after generations of children growing up eating fast food, Americans are, shall we say, increasingly diametrically challenged. The old building code allowed windows 4.0' square. However, the building folks fear that most Americans would have trouble fitting through windows of this size in cases of fire or other emergency. The local fire departments have assured state building officials that, in this case, there is nothing to worry about. Fire departments respond to calls on 911, the Amish don't have telephones, much less 911, and by the time the fire fighters get wind of a fire on a remote Amish farm, the building has burned down. There is no need to worry about the size of the windows, since their wooden houses burn so fast, when fire fighters arrive there are no walls to hold the windows up. In fact, generally by the time fire departments get a call and respond, the industrious Amish have cleared away the debris and rebuilt the house, The firemen are perfectly welcome to come in through the front door. (That last is conjecture on my part.) Also, as reported by World, the Amish live 19th century life-styles, they shun such places as McDonalds and thus have no problem fitting through their 5.0' windows, even two at a time.

But the State of New York is adamant. Windows must be 5.7' square, no ifs ands or buts, religious principle be damned. There is the problem. At what point do laws such as building codes trump the Constitutional principle of the free exercise of religion? As the World writer points out, at what point can state or local authorities demand that the Amish must have electricity in their houses, or use cars instead of buggies? And, at what point can state authorities decide that Christians no longer have the right to celebrate Christmas, or Easter, or go to Mass on Sunday, since these things create too much congestion on city streets, thus increase the chance for accidents. What if Christians are denied the right to meet in small groups in their homes for Bible study, because of the congestion on residential streets? There comes a point at which we should recognize that there are many possible ways our right to practice religion and worship as we please can be denied, and we are no longer living in a society that is friendly to our Christian faith. The OOA are seeing this first-hand, through a glass, darkly.


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I have refrained from blogging for a while for a couple of reasons. One, to coin a Yogi Berraism, I haven't had much to say and didn't know how to say it. Actually, a post Eric Johnson did a day or so ago reminded me why I hadn't been posting and, at the same time got me in the mood to start again.

Eric commented that he was ceasing regular visits to Mark Shea's blog because of Mark's testiness with those who disagree with him on Iraq. I haven't visited Mark's blog in a while and don't know if the charges are true or not. But the reason I left off blogging for a while was that I felt I was becoming less than charitable and that it would be better to let the mood pass than keep on posting in an uncharitable manner. This is a difficult thing to do since, being so right about so many things it's hard to see how anyone could possible disagree with anything I said or wrote. In any case, I needed to get a grip.

As it happens, I am one of the one's who would likely arouse Mark's ire, I firmly believe that the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. I believe this is so because Iraq under Saddam was actively aiding Taliban and numerous assorted other terrorists, avowed enemies of the United States who are determined to bring America down. I think we have a right and a duty, in a time of war, to attack our enemies and I believe that arguments about weapons of mass destruction, etc are irrelevant. I think this is a valid position under the so-called "just war" theory and is, I think, the gist of Eric’s position.

On another note, there was a (nearly illiterate) comment posted over at Two Sleepy Mommies by Susie Q. that was quite interesting. I found it interesting in that it shows what has happened today in terms of Scriptural literacy, in fact, literacy in general. The comment by Susie Q makes some rather far out statements about Christianity that betray no hint of real thought, much less a concern for facts. Rather, this post is an example of the typical attitude promoted about religious faith that is abroad in our society. I guess I am more concerned about this because none of the comments in response offer real answers to Susie Q's protests about religious faith. So, without further ado . . .

The first thing SQ seems to be saying that Jesus was a 1st century con artist and that he duped people. She says "back then anyone could have come to town and said 'I am the son of god (sic)' and people would have believed him." The fact is, the Gospels are quite clear that "people", even, perhaps especially, those closest to him, the disciples, hardly understood what he was teaching, did not blindly accept what he was claiming to be, and protested His plans when He revealed them. When Jesus taught that, in order to have life people would have to "eat my flesh and drink my blood", not only did people not blindly accept it, many quit following him. After his crucifixion, his disciples thought that the work He had started was finished, they had no expectation of His Resurrection occurring, and were deeply discouraged, and afraid of being arrested themselves. The picture we have in the Bible is not of a people swept away by a con; rather it is one of a failure of Jesus life and ministry, ended by the death given a common criminal, only the fact of the Resurrection made a difference. Hardly the picture a group of people working a con would want published abroad.

SQ also goes on to say, basically, that whatever is true for you is true. "Nobody's right, noone (sic) is wrong." I might ask: if I choose to adopt a religion, have a "sudden enlightenment", that I can attain complete spiritual maturity and a full and rich life experience by jumping off the Empire State Building, and that no harm can possibly come to me as a result, is that true? What if I decide 2 + 2 = 6? Is that true? And what happens to me if I choose to live my life in this way? Perhaps no harm will be done, as long as I choose to do nothing but be a blogger for the rest of my life. But what if I choose to be an aeronautical engineer? Would you like to fly on a plane I designed? This idea that whatever is true for you may not be true for me is one of the most pernicious, empty headed, "tolerant" ideas that our society has come up with. Its nonsense and no one who stops to think about it for even a minute could possibly believe they actually live this way.

SQ finally states "there is solid proof that moses (sic) used magic to spread the waters of the great sea (sic) to free the slaves?" Was "moses" present at Lincoln's side when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation? Or did he spread the waters with margarine? In any case, is this "solid proof" offered by someone who was there? Or did they test the waters of the "great sea" to determine that on such and such a date they had been magically "spread"? For that matter, which waters did they test?

Many folks today think they can make any statement they want, so long as it makes them feel good. There is no concern for truth, nor even any acceptance of the reality of truth. The problem is this leads to a life that is much less than the one God intended each one of us to live. It reduces us to the level of idiots and makes us subject to any con game that comes along, as amply demonstrated by Susie Q. But religion is not just some “feel good” new age experience. It has little to do with feelings and much to do with choice. In order to make good choices for our lives, we need to make those choices in accordance with reality. In order to do that, we must have some understanding of what the reality of our world really is, we must know the Truth.

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